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tv   Meet the Press  MSNBC  July 24, 2011 11:00am-12:00pm PDT

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this sunday, no deal. debt talks abruptly break down in washington as the president and the house speaker blame each other. >> one of the questions that the republican party's going to have to ask itself is can they say yes to anything? >> it's the president who walked away from his agreement and demanded more money at the last minute. >> this was an extraordinarily fair deal. >> the white house moves the goal post. >> leaders are feeling the heat, brutally hot summer temperatures, but more importantly than that, a fast-approaching deadline of august 2nd to raise the nation's debt ceiling. as debt defaults broil europe, the u.s. economy is now on the brink. without a deal to raise the ceiling, america's credit rating may be downgraded, and the government would be unable to pay its bills.
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>> if we default, then we're going to have to make adjustments, and i'm already consulting with secretary geithner in terms of what the consequences would be. >> so, this morning, we're going to get the very latest on weekend negotiations which did continue, despite the breakdown. is a deal still possible? with us, the president's chief of staff, bill daley, and a response this morning from a top republican negotiator, tom coburn of oklahoma. then, is washington broken? while politicians stonewall and fight over the debt talk, the public recoils. approval ratings for congress plummet, and pessimism about the country's future rises. are our politicians capable of meeting the challenges this country faces? a special discussion this morning. with us, former senator chuck hagel, republican of nebraska, cory booker, democratic mayor of newark, tea party freshman congressman adam kinzinger, presidential historian doris kearns goodwin, and nbc's andrea mitchell.
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good morning. after the dramatic friday night breakdown of talks over a so-called grand bargain deficit reduction package, congressional leaders met with the president for less than an hour saturday morning. speaker boehner spent the rest of the day working on an alternative plan to slash spending, several trillion dollars, and avert a catastrophic default by that august 2nd deadline, as we pointed out, just nine days away. word came last night after a meeting of republican and democratic congressional leaders that the speaker wants to announce the outlines of a plan as early as later today to reassure investors before asian stock markets open for monday trading. however, still so many questions remain. here to try to answer some of them, the president's chief of staff bill daley. welcome back to "meet the press." >> thanks, david. >> so, it seems like the talks right now are on doing something temporary. a trillion dollars in spending
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cuts, raise the debt limit by that much, at least get us through the end of the year. is that something the president can accept? >> well, the president has been consistent in what he's called for. one, we obviously cannot let the credit of the united states government be in question. we've got to get past this debt ceiling vote on august 2nd. but as importantly, he's been committed to try to take serious steps to bring the deficit down, and that's what the engagement with speaker boehner, twice, that's what the fiscal commission founded, that is what the biden process was all about, not just to deal with the debt ceiling vote, but to do something about the deficit, which is a serious drag on our economy. that's what we were focused on. right now, we've got three things that must be done -- the debt ceiling must be extended, it should not be short term, it must be beyond, into 2013 to continue this uncertainty. i talk to ceos every day, and all they want from washington is
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for washington to take out the uncertainty in the system. there are enough problems with our economy right now, but to continue to have this show going on. and if you look at the rating agencies, what they've said, what they've said is the reason they question our economy right now and the reason we may get downgraded, because they don't have faith that this political system of ours can deal in a serious way with the deficit. so, the president is intent on making sure, and all the congressional leaders, senator mcconnell, speaker boehner, senator reid, congresswoman nancy pelosi have all said the debt ceiling will be extended, but it must be extended in a way that gives certainty to the economy through 2013 and not some short-term gimmick where we're right back in this fix in six or eight months and the world looks at us once again and says, in the middle of a political election year of presidential politics, the world looks at us and says these people just can't get their act together.
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>> all right. so what you're saying is that after talks break down, what congressional leaders were engaged in was no more than a gimmick? so, a short-term deal is no more than that? >> no, a short-term deal that doesn't begin to address in a serious way begin to deal with the deficit will not be respected by the rating agencies. >> but the process that speaker boehner's talking about? >> there is a process that senator reid and senator mcconnell in the senate have talked about, and that would be a super committee that would be charged with trying to address the deficit over a very short period. in senator mcconnell's plan that he put forward ten days, two weeks ago, would then have a process by which the president would come to congress, ask for authorization to extend the debt ceiling, show what cuts he would make. the congress would have the opportunity to vote up or down and then move on. the president said i'll accept that responsibility. but to go through another debt ceiling vote to get further dollars in the spring of '13 would continue this uncertainty in our economy, and it affects the average person.
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>> and i want to get to that in just a minute, but let me just be clear on this. the president will not sign a plan that's basically two parts -- short-term extension and then maybe a separate process for dealing with the bigger issues? >> if the process has the opportunity to deal with the issues and has certainty that the debt ceiling will not be used again in the political year, and we don't have a situation as we've had with this one, where washington was unable to function and the world has watched, the american people have gotten nervous, you've got markets around the world ready to react. it's time to get some certainty in the system. >> so -- >> and whatever deal the congress comes up with, the president said it must give us certainty to 2013. we can fight, and we must have a fight over the need for budget deficit reduction. the president laid out a plan. speaker boehner had a plan. the fiscal commission had a plan. so, this has to be two steps. but the second step must get us through '13 without having to go through this ridiculous fight
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over extending the debt ceiling. >> all right, i just want to be clear -- the president would veto a plan if it does not extend the debt ceiling into 2013? >> yes. the president believes that we must get this uncertainty, in order to help the american economy and help the american people, we must get this uncertainty out of the system, but at the same time, he's insisting, and senator reid put a plan forward on a super committee of the senate and the house that will deal in a very short period with the deficit. so, we could see serious deficit reform. senator coburn comes on next, the gang of six worked at it. they've got an outline. there's plenty parts -- >> help me understand the timing. you're saying you want a vote that says the debt ceiling is raised until 2013. there could be this super commission that takes on the hard stuff. >> right, right. >> and when does it have to vote up or down? by when? >> if the super committee doesn't produce something that the congress approves, and my understanding is this is speaker boehner's plan -- if they don't produce something in early -- at the end of -- pardon me, at the end of '11 or '12, then there's
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action that must take place. senator mcconnell has a plan where the president would come to the congress, give his list of cuts, they could vote approval or disapproval on that proposal in order to get the extension of the debt ceiling, but it would not be this sword being held over the american people's heads once again. >> but why should the american people have any more confidence in the political system's ability to make hard choices then when it won't make the hard choices now? >> well, hope springs eternal, i guess. >> let's talk about more immediate economic impact, get out of the political fighting and talk about what the impact is on the markets. you have said in the last couple of weeks that number really has to be $4 trillion worth of deficit cutting for the rest of the world and for markets to take the united states seriously. "the new york times" reported this on thursday, quoting mark zandi, a prominent economist at moody's, and i'll put it up on the screen. zandi, the chief economist at moody's analytics said "you keep putting one piece of sand on the pile, nothing happens and then, all of a sudden, it just caves."
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several traders and bankers, including mr. zandi, said the imminence of the possible default was already damaging the united states' standing as the most creditworthy country in the world. the tarnished reputation may linger, even if the government reaches a deal, and especially if the country's financial books remain unbalanced. our aura is diminished, you know people really view the u.s. as the aaa, the gold standard," and i think we're tarnishing that. that's according to mr. zandi. how much damage do you think has been done. >> there's no question enormous damage has been done to our creditworthiness throughout the world, the perception of america as a country that not only is solid, and when there are difficult problems, as we have done in our history, we address them. we don't kick the can. we had a chance, and we still have a chance, albeit a difficult, because it's only nine days away to august 2nd, a chance to really do something serious. that's what the president wanted. that's what the president has been saying now for months. in april, he put out a $4
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trillion roadmap to fiscal sanity, okay? he began to negotiate with speaker boehner, twice we've negotiated with the speaker for deficit reduction, and we haven't gotten there. gang of six that senator coburn's part of has been active over the last six months. they finally came out with something last week. i do think that out of this process, albeit rather disruptive to the political system and to the economic system and not fair to the american people, because they are the victims of this political dysfunction in this town. >> but dysfunction is on both sides. there's failed leadership on both sides. the president and republican negotiators. the president was quite angry with speaker boehner, said he's been left at the altar twice. but i just want to show the context for this conversation. the u.s. federal debt, going back to inauguration day when the president came in, it was $10.6 trillion in july, now 2011, it's at $14.3 trillion. the proposed increase would take it to $16.3 trillion. and yet, from the republican
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point of view, here you were in negotiations about spending cuts, and yet, it was the white house who said we've got to increase the amount of tax increases for this to be a balanced plan. can't you understand the point of view that says, wait a minute, why shouldn't the priority be on spending cuts alone and not tax increases, with this debt? >> it's a combination of the two. you cannot just cut your way to health. no company that gets in trouble would just cut, cut, cut, in order to get healthy. you have to cut, you have to invest in things. it's not one way. no one runs a business that way. what you have to do is you have to have a balance. the american people are very willing to sacrifice, but that means all of us have to sacrifice. that means those of us, like yourself and i, who have done quite well in life, ought to sacrifice a little bit more. and what the president is saying is it ought to be more of a shared sacrifice, and it should not just be cuts on the backs of those who are disabled or the seniors or the elderly. those are the people who right now have to be watched out for by the government.
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but this president in all of these negotiations has understood that there must be entitlement reform, and he has been willing to take on his party and some of the so-called sacred cows of the last 25, 30 years, and deal with those issues. >> but it was speaker boehner who said, look, we had an agreement -- >> we did not have an agreement. that's not true. >> -- tax increases, and the white house then changed -- >> that's not true. >> it's got to be $400 billion more in tax hikes. that's not true? >> i was in the room. the truth is, in those negotiations, we had a series of items still open. there were discussions on revenue. the president was serious on revenue. and we said when the gang of six came out, there is more revenue in the gang of six. they're willing to go further than we're even going. can we go further? we have enormous spending cuts that we're talking here, but can we go further on revenue? get back to us, tell us if that's possible, because the game that we were trying to accomplish was to pass something with enough votes, obviously, that made a serious impact. we never heard back.
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>> right. >> there was no ultimatum. there was no change at the goalpost saying do this or we walk out the door. that is absolutely untrue. >> when you were here last year, you said you would not question speaker boehner's willingness or ability to handle his own caucus. do you say now that he's failed to lead? >> i think there is a serious question and a debate within the republican caucus as to the future and where they want to go. are they going to be a caucus that is going to just say no, it's our way or the highway? look it. there is a divided government, there is no question. but the american people, when they elected a divided government, by giving the house to the republicans for control, they didn't want -- they wanted divided government, not dysfunctional government. what we have right now is an attitude -- and i'll give an example of that -- we have an attitude of it's our way or it's the highway, okay? so, you either come our way or chaos may reign. that is not the way to run a government. this has to be bipartisan.
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we have a situation right now with the faa. you have a reauthorization of the federal aviation administration, runs all the airports. they have been trying to be reauthorized since 2007. there's been 20-some extensions. that dispute between the house and senate broke down, and 4,000 people were laid off on friday because of a political inability for the house and the senate to get together. the republicans in the house said it's our way or, sorry, 4,000 people are laid off. that's not the way government's supposed to work. >> are you concerned that speaker boehner is no longer a real partner in these negotiations with the president? >> look it. i think he is a partner, but he's got a caucus that may have a very different attitude about how they want to see government function, and compromise, which is the way things move forward,
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has become a terrible word, i believe, in this caucus. >> is there need for accountability on the part of the president? you say the president's been way out in front on this. he's certainly taken a lot of criticism for not being way out in front. even in april, secretary geithner said we can have a parallel conversation about the debt ceiling -- excuse me, a parallel conversation about reducing the debt and the deficit, but congress should have to reauthorize and up the debt ceiling. did he take seriously enough what republicans were saying, which is, no, there's got to be a direct link here, and therefore, making it too late and pushing us to the brink? >> first of all, the president created the fiscal commission last year -- >> but he didn't accept their recommendations. >> but no republicans would vote for any piece of it on the commission, okay? so, he set that process in place. after that failed, he then began a process in the spring with the republican leadership. he put forward a -- brought the leaders in. vice president biden put a process together, congressman cantor, senator kyl, representatives, all the leaders. they went for two months. they dealt with serious discussions on cuts, real cuts.
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when they got to the revenue section, the republican leadership said, nope, we're out of here, sorry, that's the end of that. we'll deal with cuts or we won't even stay around for the discussion on revenue. and that's not a balanced way to run the government. you don't just say, okay, i've got what i want, i'm walking out the door. that's what happened with that process. the president then came back after that broke down, brought the leaders in and said, look it, at that point, we had about six weeks. he said we have got to do something here, and there's been serious negotiations. twice we got close with speaker boehner on a deal that would have made -- i believe would have been a historic agreement and would have sent the message to the world and to the markets, but most importantly, to the american people that this system can work. and people who have strong disagreements, political, strong forces, the speaker and the president, can come together, forge a deal. neither one likes everything about it. then they turn around and convince their allies that this is good for america. >> one last political question.
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the president had said he'd be willing to cut medicare/medicaid by $650 billion. democrats are not very happy about that, certainly. >> right. >> given that that was his position, fair to say that the president will not use medicare as an issue against republicans in the campaign, he will not accuse them of trying to gut the program because they want to reform it or cut benefits when he was willing to make those cuts? >> the president's reason to make cuts in medicare was not just to solve the deficit, but to strengthen medicare so it lasts for the american people -- >> but that's what republicans say they're doing, too, and democrats say you're taking it away from seniors. >> take the republican plan that was passed in the house that every republican voted for, a fundamental change in the way medicare functions from the last 50 years. that is just not -- >> medicare still an issue for the campaign? >> medicare is an issue for the american people. they want to know that it's solved. they want to know it's going to be there. that is a sacred pledge by the government to the people who are in hard times. and for us to keep playing games with this. we have the chance right now --
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we think there may still be time to make serious changes to medicare to strengthen it to give people confidence, not just to gut their benefits. this president will never sign on board to any plan that's going to do that. >> before you go, then, bottom line where we are on the talks. do you see the possibility of a breakthrough as early as today, or are we in unchartered territory? >> well, i think we're getting into difficult days. obviously the congress -- some people believe the congress acts rather slowly. but when they need to act, when they see a crisis, i have firm belief in every one of the leaders -- senator mcconnell, speaker boehner, senator reid, congresswoman nancy pelosi have all committed themselves that this country's debt will be paid. the congress ran these up. it is the congress that has the responsibility to act. >> are we in a financial crisis now? do you worry about the markets tomorrow? >> well, we've been in a
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difficult economic crisis for quite a long time. the american people know that. we are now getting to a point where i think markets around the world will question whether the political system in washington can come together and compromise for the greater good of the country. >> all right. we're going to leave it there. we'll be watching. mr. daley, thank you, as always. >> thank you. >> joining me, a member of the senate finance committee and so-called gang of six, negotiator senator tom coburn of oklahoma. senator, welcome back to "meet the press." >> good morning. how are you? >> i'm fine. i want to get your reaction to what you heard from bill daley here from the white house this morning, which is, the president will not sign a deal that results in only a temporary increase of the debt limit. he wants to see something that gets us through 2013. >> well, first of all, i think that's a ridiculous position, because that's what he's going to get presented with. that's the compromise way through that's going to build
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the compromise. david, everybody's talking about the symptoms of our problem instead of the real disease. the government's twice the size it was ten years ago. it's 30% bigger than it was when president obama became president. the problem is, is we're spending way too much money, and it's not hard to cut it without hurting entitlement benefits, but we don't have anybody that wants to do that without getting a tax increase. >> all right. well, i want the to get to taxes in just a minute, but i want to talk about the here and now, which is a failed political system at the moment. and what you heard from mr. daley, very difficult days in the financial markets and a lack of confidence around the world at the united states' creditworthiness and its ability to reach some kind of consensus. does that not have to create a breakthrough along the lines of what the president is talking about, cuts that are large enough, an extension of the debt ceiling that's long enough to say to the markets, you know, you can count on the united states?
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>> i don't agree with that because if you give an extension of $2.4 trillion to this president and this administration, which has policies that have actually hurt our recovery, i think you actually hurt the possibility of keeping our aaa rating without making the fundamental changes that have come to this government. and unless you reform entitlements and unless you get rid of the waste and duply indication, there's $2 trillion over ten years in duplication and fraud in the federal government before you ever even talk about entitlement programs. you mentioned the faa program with mr. daley. you know what's holding up the faa program, is essential services where the american people are paying $1,000 a ticket in subsidy to people who are riding from airports with six passengers on a plane when they could drive an hour and a half and get an airplane and we wouldn't be paying the $1,000.
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so, it's continued waste and duplication in the federal government, and they won't approve the faa because they continue to want to subsidize irresponsible and wasteful behavior. >> is it responsible to get to a point where we pass the august 2nd deadline and risk default? >> i don't think so. i think we'll get there, and i think the president -- i understand why they're saying they won't sign a short-term, but i think they won't have any choice and i think that's the only answer right now. i would make the other point -- the deficit commission put out a pretty good plan. it was deadpanned by this administration. had they come alongside, started supporting that a long time ago, we wouldn't be where we are today, and that was the president's commission. he had 11 members out of the 18, 60% that supported that, and it got absolute cold shoulder from the administration. >> i want to ask -- >> so, for them to come back now
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and to say -- to use that when they rejected it out of hand, did not embrace their own commission. so, it's not intellectually honest to say that that was one of the steps because they didn't want it because it had entitlement reform in it. >> let me get to the heart of the matter. you have been outspoken on the issue of taxes. you believe in lower taxes, certainly as a matter of principle as a conservative, but you've also talked about the need for compromise. that is not something that's happened among conservatives on capitol hill and among the leadership. this is how "the new york times" editorialized about it on saturday morning. "the party that can't say yes," it writes. "in the end it was mr. boehner who torpedoed the talks. he said friday evening that he and the president had come close to agreeing on $800 billion of revenue increases, but could not stomach another $400 billion the white house wanted to raise through extending tax loopholes and deductions. so, on the eve of economic
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calami, the republicans killed an overly generous deal largely over a paltry $400 billion in deductions. mr. obama was willing to take considerable heat from his liberal critics over the deal and the republicans were not willing to do a thing to anger their tea party base." what do you say to that? >> well, i'd say a couple of things. number one is nobody in america has actually seen a plan from this administration put on paper for us to visualize and to actually look at what they were willing to give up. so, we don't know what that is. there's no question, there's waste in the tax credits that are in the code. there's no question, there's favors for individuals in the code that ought to be eliminated, and we can do that, but you ought to do that as you lower the rates, because our biggest problem isn't that taxes are too low, it's that the government interference and the oppressing nature of our government on our economy is lessening the economy's response. so, i would vote for a compromise, as i did in the
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deficit commission, as i worked with the guys in the gang of six, provided you get significant changes to the real problem that is facing us, which is the waste and the duplication and the fraud in the federal government programs, and number two, reforming the entitlements. mr. daley also said that they were going to oppose anything that would fundamentally change medicare. well, medicare is belly-up. anybody that's on medicare today, i want to tell you, in five years, it's going to have to change. we cannot borrow the money to keep it going the way it is today. >> all right. senator, final word -- >> so, people need to know that, rather than take a false assumption that you won't change something. >> final question. what is your message to those in the tea party caucus and the house about tax increases and what needs to be done to get a deal? >> well, ideally, we would not have tax increases, but to get a deal, if we eliminated ethanol-blending tax credits, wind energy tax credits, tons of other tax credits, then we could
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get a deal, and what that would not do is impact the average american, would not raise rates. we would use that money to lower rates. but with that, get significant, fundamental entitlement reform and discretionary spending reform. >> all right, we're going to leave it there. senator coburn, thank you very much. >> glad to be with you. and coming up, we're going to continue the conversation. a special discussion this morning. if you need any more evidence, you hear how polarized the talks are. is washington broken? the high-level debt talks raising questions about whether washington can tackle the country's biggest problem, or has the system become a victim of partisan gamesmanship and leadership? plus, the prospects for a debt deal. and an analysis from our roundtable of what you just heard. with us, former senator chuck hagel and newark mayor cory booker, congressman adam kinzinger, doris kearns goodwin and nbc's andrea mitchell, right after the break. kinzinger, doris kearns goodwin and nbc's andrea mitchell, right after the break.
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>> coming up, is washington broken? former senator chuck hagel, mayor cory booker of newark, representative adam kinzinger, historian doris kearns goodwin and our own andrea mitchell. they join me in a special roundtable discussion, up next. . . [ male announcer ] the network -- a network of possibilities. in here, the planned combination of at&t and t-mobile would deliver our next generation mobile broadband experience to 55 million more americans, many in small towns and rural communities, giving them a new choice.
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and we're back with a special roundtable discussion this morning. joining me now, presidential historian doris kearns goodwin, host of msnbc's "andrea mitchell reports," our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell, democratic mayor of newark, new jersey, cory booker, former republican senator chuck hagel of nebraska, and joining us for his first appearance on the program, republican congressman adam kinzinger. i didn't mess up the name. >> it's adam kinzinger, but that's all right. >> what'd i say? i'm sorry. >> it is my first time here. >> he was elected in 2010 with the tea party support and served as a captain in the air force, including tours in afghanistan and iraq. congressman, welcome very much. >> thanks. >> happy to have you. and welcome to everyone. doris, sometimes satire can be the most damning in terms of summing up where we are. "the onion" newspaper has this headline this week -- "congress continues debate over whether or
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not nation should be economically ruined." if the question is whether washington is broken, make the case that the answer is yes. >> i think there's no question it's broken. you know, our country was created on the principle of compromise. think about it. the states versus the federal government, senate versus house, north versus south. and i remember once, one of the old framers was asked, what is the three principles of this new government you've created? well, the first is compromise, the second is compromise, the third is compromise. something's happened where compromise has become a terrible word in washington. it's partly because the parties have become more ideologically separated. henry clay was the great compromiser. lincoln's idol was henry clay. now a lot of people feel you're undoing your convictions. what are you going to washington for unless you're trying to work out solutions? solutions in a diverse country like ours will require compromise and i don't think that attitude is there. and i think the kind of people that come to washington now don't want to do that, and it's
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only going to make it worse because the caliber of people gets less. >> congressman, you're new to washington. is this what you expected? is this how it should operate? >> no, it's not how it should operate. i mean, i think washington, there's no doubt that it's broken, there's no doubt that there's -- you know, it's become personal. it's become have it tree ol'ic and acidic. people need to work together. we need to have these discussions. and i think the american people would be impressed with the discussions we have. we get along behind the scenes. but i feel like the republicans in the house have come to the table. we've said, look, the overspending of congresses prior to us, of our president, have brought us to a point where we need to recognize that, you know, yeah, we probably have to pay for that by raising the debt ceiling. however, we've got to get ourselves on a fiscal trajectory. think about it. the amount of cuts that we're thinking about making ten years is almost equivalent to what we spent in ten minutes in the stimulus in 2009, so we have to have a reduction. >> senator hagel, there was a piece in "foreign policy" on
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thursday, kind of summing up, again, the case against washington working. and he writes this. the headline, "americans have complained for years that their government is broken. this time they're right. look at what we've got now, a long-term debt disaster with viable bipartisan solutions on the table but ignored or cast aside in congress, an impasse over the usually perfunctory matter of raising the statutory debt limit placing the united states in jeopardy of its first ever default, sniping about guerrilla warfare over major policy steps enacted by the last congress, health care reform and financial regulation, no serious action or movement on climate change, jobs, or continuing mortgage crisis and major trade deals stalled yet again despite bipartisan and presidential support." >> well, i think where you start is with this fact. at least i believe this. politics just reflects society. and what we are seeing today, i believe, is a new, emerging governing coalition being built in this country, a new political center of gravity. evidence of that abounds. start with gallop's numbers on registered independents. registered independents now
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represent nearly 40% of all the registered voters in america. republicans sink like a rock, democrats sink like a rock. and you can bolster that argument in many, many ways. point being, we are living at a time when society is the most complicated, interconnected, immediate we've ever seen. that also reflects on a world order that's being rebuilt. we haven't seen a world order being rebuilt since world war ii, really. the implosion of the soviet union in 1991 started it. so, obviously, what's happening in washington is going to reflect what's happening across this country and the world. the emergence of the tea party, for example, whatever that is, a philosophy about the government that was borne out of frustration, disappointment, high expectations in your leaders. to doris's point, you're supposed to come to washington to help govern, find solutions, solve problems. we're not seeing that. this just didn't start, by the way, with this president. i saw this in the senate emerging over the last 12 years. both parties are to blame. we have, i think, a vacuum of some leadership, of some courage.
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courage has never been an abundant commodity in washington, but we're going to blow through this, david. i do believe that. and the last point i'd make -- look at the last three elections in this country. we're not a republic that swings wildly. last three elections, back to back, threw parties out of power in those elections. what does that tell you? that tells you that the board of directors, the people who own the country, the citizen, the voter is going to take action. >> well, andrea mitchell, look at our polling that shows that 52% of republicans say their leaders should stick to their convictions. something like 60% of democrats said there should be compromises. there's the political divide. >> exactly. i was really struck by a cartoon this week that had the leaders of iraq and afghanistan, maliki and karzai, looking at our debt ceiling debate and saying, "do you think they'll ever be ready for democracy?" you know, the fact is that we've got people who have been elected, house members have been elected in gerrymandered, much more partisan districts.
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they're more worried about being challenged in a primary than running against the democrat. you've got both caucuses now much more ideological because the census the democrats were defeated in the last round. so, this whole thing fell apart. john boehner and barack obama probably could have come together on something. they could not lead their caucuses, and boehner is a different kind of speaker. he has not the ability or the desire to go out and say this is the deal, my way or the highway. you're not going to get on this, you're not going to get on that, you're not going to have a good office. the old enforcement mechanisms, as much as we dislike them and used to criticize them, they worked. leaders could demand followship. here, there's an exile -- >> let me get mayor booker into this. what do you see from the outside? >> you know, the dam of disgust that's welling up in this country where people feel like their politics is betraying them. and most americans, frankly, don't think of themselves first as democrats or republicans. they think of themselves as americans. and they are frustrated by the
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partisanship being put before progress, by parties being put before pragmatism. so, my hope is, as the sound of senator hagel, the sound of optimism, is that this is the beginning of a welling up in this nation where we're going to start to reject the kind of politics that's not serving. >> doris, you talked about historic parallels, and congressman, you mentioned it as well, how personal it's gotten. we actually had a reflection of that this week bean congressman allen west from florida and debbie wassermann schultz, fellow florida congresswoman and chairman of the dnc. he wrote her an e-mail after they had an exchange on the floor, and i'll put it on the screen so viewers can see. this is the e-mail -- "look, debbie, i understand that after i departed the house floor, you directed your floor speech comments directly toward me. let me make myself perfectly clear -- you want a personal fight, i am happy to oblige. you are the most vial, unprofessional, and despicable member of the u.s. house of representatives. if you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face.
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otherwise, shut the heck up. you have proven repeatedly that you are not a lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me. steadfast and loyal congressman west." does this make your head turn or does this remind you of an earlier era? >> in the 19th century, a dozen congressman were formally censured for insulting remarks to fellow congressmen. now what happens, they say these remarks and suddenly raise more money from their base. one of the things that's happened -- >> they both are doing that in this case. >> exactly. i mean just to go back to andrea's point for a minute about the speaker not having the power. sometimes i yearn for the days of speaker joe cannon. he had so much power that at one time, he'd say how many ayes, how many nays? thundering nay. well, the nays make the most noise, but the ayes have it. you have a feeling with boehner, he grew up with 11 brothers and sisters, he said compromise is in his dna. he wanted do this, you get the
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feeling, if he and the president could have made it. but one of the things that's happening in congress, too, is they're there from tuesday to thursday, they're not there on the weekends, they don't socialize, they don't form friends even between tea party and non-tea party as well as republicans and democrats. we've lost that comradery that is the core of what the system is about. >> i think when we talk about what's the future of this country, where are we going, where's politics? america is the best country in the world. we refuse to accept second. my grandfather fought in world war ii, and i remember him in tears when he tried to recount his experiences just before he died. he couldn't do it. i think of the generations, from the men who signed the declaration of independence who said this is going to cost us our life, but we're going do it, and generations of people like senator hagel who fought, like when i was in iraq and afghanistan and the people i fought with -- the investment we've made in this country. we refuse to fail. i absolutely refuse to say that this is something we can't do, that we're accepting second best. >> right. >> america is the greatest country in the world. >> but my question, congressman, is compromise failing? because that's what seems to be
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the underlying trend here, is that any give -- well, let's put it this way. compromise is not celebrated in the way that doris said it was in the past. >> i don't think compromise is failing. i think when we say washington is broken, it's never going to get better -- and i'm not saying that's what we're saying here -- but that's failing. by saying, well, it's just broken, we'll have to accept our place in history. no, we can come to a compromise. as i said, truly there is a feeling in my caucus and in me specifically, i can say, that i feel we are willing to compromise by coming to the table and saying we understand we'll have to raise the debt limit specifically, but we'll have to get ourselves on a fiscal trajectory, because, look, we've spent too much money. we have the same tax rates, two wars, the same prescription drug benefit in 2007, but the deficit then was $161 billion. this year it's $1.5 trillion. >> this is the question, senator hagel, is this extreme principle or is this a form of taking an issue and using that issue to say, you know, absolutely no give, no matter whether there's a crisis looming financially or not?
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>> well, first, democracies can only work through consensus. there is no way it can work in any other form or fashion. doris talked about it. second, there is another dynamic to this, too, david, we haven't touched on yet, and that is that we are trapped in a 20th-century government structure, trying to deal with 21st-century challenges, issues and problems. and you can take down all the committees and all the dynamics and the rules in the house and the senate and so on. the fact is, we've got an institutional problem as well as a personal problem. the only other thing i would say about consensus and compromise -- doris, again, mentioned this. when you look back in the history of this country, as john mccain once said, politics is not bean-bagging. and it's been rough. it's been rougher, actually, than what we've seen it today. it's just more immediate today. there are more cable television channels, there are more pundits, there are more people who think they know everything about everything, and that's one of the big differences.
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that doesn't dismiss or excuse what happened between that exchange that you showed on the tv, but consensus is absolutely essential if we're to move this country along. >> go ahead. >> i'm sorry, i'm a little disgusted and a little angry because i see what's going on every day. we have a situation where the capitol is fiddling itself while the nation is burning. we talk about our grandparents' generation, during crisis, during the great depression, we built the hoover dam, empire state building. and here i see in my cities around america and mine, infrastructure's crumbling around us. we are in a nation that in that generation we said we're going to go to the moon and we're going do math and science and make sure our kids are prepared to go there. what's happening right now? nations are passing us in droves. over 800 countries have a higher proportion of students graduating from college than we do. again, our central capitol is fooling around on issues that are perfunctory, as you said. meanwhile, we're lacking what's best about america, what's made this nation strong in generations past, is our courage
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to take on the tough issues, to plot a course and to push our nation to the front of the global context, and this is what america's hungering for, not these party debates, but a larger vision. and the republicans are right, and i'm the first democrat to say that, that we have a nation that is drowning in debt. we've seen this in new jersey, us racking up entitlements that we cannot afford to pay for. we have to deal with these difficult problems, but we also have to do something that's going to inspire our country again to dream of who we can be in this nation, and that's not coming from washington right now. >> it's sad to see our space program -- i mean, we saw the last launch of the shuttle but because of the kind of red ink we're drowning in, we can't even afford to go to space anymore. >> but there are practical solutions. to see the simpson/bowles commission come together with practical solutions and as soon as it comes out, the left and the right, both attack it.
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>> and, in fact, there is some criticism that is probably warranted, that the white house was pretty much silent on that. simpson/bowles came together. there have been several documents, including the gang of six, although democratic leaders in the senate certainly view the gang of six coming out with another document they think is unhelpful because it changed the trajectory of the conversation. >> but give president obama credit. he's being attacked not just by the republicans but by his own wing saying there's got to be a pragmatic center. >> but there was a moment where initially that commission would have had enforcement if republicans hadn't faulted. so the president was left with the problem of creating a commission which had no enforcement mechanism, had no staffing, basically, and eventually came out with a product that at least was a taking-off point. the president did not jump in at that point is the criticism. that said, the president and john boehner now clearly are looking to independent swing voters, the healthy middle, and disgusted middle of the country, and we're looking to try to bring their groups along, but
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they didn't have the power to try to get liberals/progressives/pelosi democrats, however you phrase them in house to accept them, to come together and accept the entitlement cuts up front and more importantly, john boehner couldn't get them -- >> and if the left and right are taking over, is there room in the center? you raised this when we were talking over the weekend. tom friedman in "the new york times" today has this as the headline -- "make way for the radical center: a third way is now on the way." is it real? does that really reflect where americans are? >> i think it does reflect it. i think americans have a basic sense of fairness. they even did a study of our dna that says as primates, we care about fairness, which is one reason why i think the country now is saying that obama is speaking more to where the majority is by demanding both a combination of cuts and revenue increasement. but what you need then are people in the middle too often seem passive. they're defensive.
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you need passionate centrists. somebody said to me "you need raging centrists." if somebody could have the passion teddy roosevelt said -- he was absolutely in the center of the country, to the left of the republican party, to the right of the republicans. he called for a square deal. harry truman called for a fair deal. that's what you need, people that are proud of where the country is. the country is in the center. the country wants them. but too often, the people with the passion are on the left and the right and the people are explaining in the middle. >> what about the dynamics in the house right now? there's been a feeling and interesting analysis about this, that for this freshmen class right now, which you are a part, you don't feel like you got there because of john boehner. he's there, because in effect, tea party folks like yourself or with those sentiments sort of allowed him to be there, and he goes against that group as his peril. he can't bring them to the table and say you will support this, because he knows that he's part of the establishment in many ways that you and your colleagues are bucking against. does that create a dynamic where
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getting compromise is that much more difficult? >> you know, i know that's kind of the feeling, but i can tell you, look, speaker boehner has been a good leader in saying i want to hear what the sentiments are, i want to reflect -- i mean, we have amendments to appropriations bill that were never allowed on the floor of the house of representatives for the last number of years. it's an open process now. he really is open to saying let the house work its will. he's said it a number of times. but i can tell you, my allegiance is to the 11th congressional district in illinois, and i think the allegiance of the people that i've seen, you know, understand that they're representing their districts. now again, even within the freshmen class, there are people kind of on all sides of everything, but that's what's great about this country. and we do have these discussions. >> senator hagel, your former colleague allan simpson was part of the deficit commission asked by "time" magazine whether he'd run again. you're out of this game, as is he. this is what he said. "would you run for office now?" was the question. his response "oh, hell no. now it's just sharp elbows, and instead of having a caucus where
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you sit down and say what are you going to do for our country, you sit figuring out how to screw the other side." would you join this party again? >> i think al very eloquently stated this, as he is one to do. he's right. this is scripted politics. this is a scripted, political dimension, forum, caucuses give the members talking points and you don't stray far from the left or the right of your parties. you actually penalize when you actually question your party or question your administration. i once said, and it got a lot of attention, at a hearing regarding iraq in the foreign relations committee, if you did not want to make the tough choices and make the hard decisions and the tough votes, then go sell shoes. well, i heard from all the shoe people -- that worked out all right. but that's the whole point.
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and until -- we can talk for hours and hours about this, but until you get back to the one common denominator, you come to washington to make a better world, to govern, to compromise, make it happen. that's not a political statement. that's the problem. >> let me ask you this, for a lot of younger people who are looking at the political system and are disappointed. members of the public have a real stake in actually changing this by having their formal officials do the right thing. >> first of all one of our presidents said there's nothing wrong with america that can't be cured by america. we are wounding ourselves by creating crises that do not have to exist. and so what we need and what i hunger for from washington and this is why president obama right now is excited. there are leaders who are not just going to follow the polls and follow the sanctity of theirs by but stand strong on principle even if it means
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sacrificing for capital. that's what washington needs and america needs. number one, we get the government we deserve. >> i'm going to get in a quick break here. we're going to look at what to look for in the coming weeks. >> plus what are the hot political stories trending this morning? that's what we're talking about. i got mine in iraq, 2003. u.s.a.a. auto insurance is often handed down from generation to generation, because it offers a superior level of protection and because u.s.a.a.'s commitment to serve the military, veterans, and their families is without equal. begin your legacy. get an auto insurance quote. u.s.a.a. we know what it means to serve.
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we're back with our final moments with our roundtable. first, our "trends & takeaways." the news this morning, the top story this morning, of course, the ongoing debt talks. we spoke with the white house chief of staff, bill daley, also
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senator coburn, on whether a short-term deal is possible. this is what they said. the president would veto a plan if it does not extend the debt ceiling into 2013? >> yes. the president believes that we must get this uncertainty in order to help the american economy and help the american people. >> first of all, i think that's a ridiculous position because that's what he's going to get presented with, that's the compromise way through that's going to build a compromise. >> still a stalemate here, andrea. >> i think there will be some compromise which will be shortser term than the president wants. they're going to have to agree to it. i don't know how they sign a pledge of no taxes before they even start coming in to compromise, but there's going to have to be some shorter-term deal that they're going to have to agree on. >> as you know every week we check in on the conversation that's going on online as we have our conversation here, and we checked in on facebook. the question we asked for folks there is "where do you think the debt talks go from here?"
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brian j. said "the quote attributed to winston churchill will come true again -- you can always count on americans to do the right thing -- after they've tried everything else." and to the trend tracker, the top political stories this morning, and you might imagine what we're talking about, the debt talks. number one going on this weekend. also on the list, representative wu from oregon has been accused of unwelcome sexual advances towards a teenage girl. he met with leader of the democrats, pelosi, over the weekend. this was said to be the daughter of a donor, a high school friend of wu's. he is saying it was consensual. still a lot of questions about this. he's coming back to washington to figure out some of his options. also, general shalikashvili number three, general chief of staff, on this program four times, and he has passed away. certainly an important figure, andrea. >> a major figure. a polish immigrant, 16 years old after world war ii, comes and becomes head of the joint chiefs
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and really helped with the balkans war. one other quick point. why do we have a debt ceiling? we're the only major industrial country that does. let's just get rid of the thing, as people are saying. only denmark. >> we may have time to take that issue up when we come back next week. thank you all for a thoughtful discussion this morning. before with we go, on monday we announced an exciting new partnership with facebook. we're going to be teaming up for an innovative and interactive debate that i'll be moderating the sunday before the new hampshire republican primary. and as the saying goes, all politics are local. but in this case, all politics are social. that's why we need you to be involved. so, be sure to visit our facebook page now, where you can suggest questions and your ideas for the debate and check back as the date approaches for some other innovative ways you can participate. it's at that is all for today. we will be back next sunday. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." going to the bank without going to the bank...
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